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Persona 4 Arena: The BlazBlue Team Goes Back To School


Thanks, Street Fighter IV. You did a grand job of rejuvenating the beat-’em-up market and because of your efforts, millions of players are now using Xbox Live as a 21st Century arcade.

We might be meeting fellow fighters in virtual lobbies rather than under the dim glow of banks of garish cabinets but the rivalries, the banter and (most importantly) the fights are as good as ever.

But without so big a brand as Street Fighter to fall back on, Arc’s attempts to win over the new fighting crowd with original games have seen mixed results.

BlazBlue has done wonderfully, Battle Fantasia… yeah, not so much. And now, the firm has elected to create a fighter based on an obscure PS2 JPRG that, while a curious decision, actually makes for an interesting and unique brawler.

Each of the 13 characters fights alongside a Persona (a summoned demonic ally), with the four-button system split down the middle to give both the main fighters and their Personas weak and strong attacks.

Abusing the powerful Persona attacks and specials is ill-advised, though; if the opponent tags your ally one too many times, you have to fight without their help (and their moves, which utterly cripples some characters) while your Persona recovers. It’s a clever risk/reward mechanic, challenging you to find safe ways to bring in your support character or suffer the consequences.

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As in BlazBlue, a comprehensive tutorial runs newcomers through everything from basic movement – which can be more than a little patronising, as evidenced by the ‘You did it!’ celebration after you prove your mastery of walking forwards AND backwards – to advanced techniques, with later tasks only hinting at the insane depth offered by the many offensive options and cancels.

Some might be scared off by the complexities, but they’re just what serious fight fans will want to see – reasons to sit in training mode for hours on end just pushing combos as far as they can be taken. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, the new term starts in September. And you seriously better have done your homework.

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